Pakistan to get duty-free access to Chinese markets

BEIJING: Pakistan and China on Sunday signed the second phase of the Free Trade Agreement (FTA) after which Pakistan will get duty-free access to Chinese markets. Prime Minister Imran Khan and his Chinese counterpart Li Keqiang witnessed the signing ceremony held here at Diaoyutai State Guest House.

The other memorandums of understanding (MoUs) and agreements signed on the occasion included declaration for completion of preliminary design of phase-I for upgradation of ML-1 and establishment of Havelian dry port under CPEC, MoU on cooperation in the field of marine sciences between China Geological Survey (CGS), Ministry of Natural Resources of China, the Institute of Oceanography, Ministry of Science and Technology, MoU between CIDCA and Ministry of Planning, Development and Reform on Implementation of the Projects under JWG of CPEC on socio-economic development, China-Pakistan Economic and Technical Cooperation Agreement and Rashakai SEZ Joint Venture and licence agreement between KPEZMDC and CRBC.

Earlier, Prime Minister Imran Khan held a bilateral meeting with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang at the conclusion of the 2nd Belt and Road Forum (BRF). The two prime ministers were accompanied by ministers and senior officials during the meeting.

Both leaders reaffirmed the time-tested and strong friendship between Pakistan and China and exchanged views on the myriad facets of bilateral engagement.

The prime minister extended felicitations to the Chinese leadership on the successful holding of the 2nd Belt and Road Forum (BRF). Noting the depth and breadth of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), the prime minister said it was of immense significance for the world in terms of connectivity and shared prosperity.

The two sides exchanged views on bilateral collaboration in the context of CPEC and prospects of further deepening economic linkages.

The prime minister underscored the importance of CPEC for Pakistan’s economy and noted with satisfaction its expansion into new areas of development including industrial development, livelihood projects, social uplift and agriculture in line with the priorities of the government. He hoped that Chinese investment in special economic zones (SEZs) would expand Pakistan’s industrial base and assist in diversifying its export basket.

Underlining the steady growth of bilateral cooperation since the prime minister’s last visit to China in November 2018, Premier Li Keqiang expressed satisfaction at the positive momentum of CPEC projects. He hoped that the conclusion of the second phase of China-Pakistan Free Trade Agreement (FTA), would give further boost to trade and economic relations between the two countries.

The two sides agreed to further deepen the political, security, economic, education, science and technology, cultural, and people-to-people relations. It was agreed to maintain the existing momentum of high-level exchanges between the two countries. The two leaders also exchanged views on regional issues including peace efforts in Afghanistan and peace and stability in South Asia. They also agreed to closely coordinate in their endeavours.

The ML-1 railways agreement was also signed by Imran Khan and his Chinese counterpart. In a statement, Railways Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed called it a great day in the history of Pakistan Railways. “Under the project, a double track from Peshawar to Karachi will be laid,” Sheikh Rashid said, adding that the speed of train on the new track will be 160 kilometres per hour.

Earlier, Imran Khan met Chinese President Xi Jinping accompanied by ministers and a senior-level delegation.

Reaffirming the all-weather strategic cooperative partnership between Pakistan and China, the two leaders exchanged views on the entire gamut of bilateral relations in a warm and cordial atmosphere, the prime minister’s spokesperson said in a statement. They affirmed the resolve to further strengthen their strategic cooperative partnership in all fields including political, security, economic and trade, and people-to-people exchanges.

Imran Khan thanked President Xi for the warm and gracious welcome accorded to him in China, and for China’s steadfast support to Pakistan on all issues. The prime minister also reaffirmed Pakistan’s support to China on all issues of its core interest and congratulated President Xi on the successful convening of the 2nd BRF. He reaffirmed Pakistan’s commitment to CPEC and highlighted the foray into new areas of agriculture, industrial development and socioeconomic uplift in the next phase of the project.

President Xi reiterated China’s unwavering support to Pakistan’s sovereignty and territorial integrity and appreciated the government’s agenda for socio-economic development and people-centred progress. He affirmed that China-Pakistan ties would continue to acquire greater strength and deepen practical cooperation in the time to come.

The two sides also exchanged views on the regional situation, including in Afghanistan and South Asia. President Xi further expressed China’s appreciation for Pakistan’s sustained and successful efforts in the fight against terrorism and to create a peaceful neighbourhood.

Meanwhile, Addressing Pakistan and China Investment Forum, Imran Khan said CPEC has transformed into a strategic partnership between Pakistan and China and encompasses various areas of cooperation. The prime minister said CPEC, which was earlier considered a network of roads and a few power projects, has blossomed into various areas of cooperation. One area of this cooperation, he said, is agriculture which is the backbone of Pakistan.

“China’s help in seed and agriculture development will help increase our agricultural productivity manifold. It will also increase growth trajectory in order to improve the lifestyle of our people,” he said.

Imran said that in Sunday’s meetings with the Chinese president and premier, China’s assistance in science and technology to Pakistan were discussed, among other matters.

The premier, who is on his second official visit to China where he attended the second Belt and Road Forum, noted that a concern among all the participating countries centered on climate change and how to mitigate its adverse impacts. He said Pakistan is among the countries that have taken revolutionary steps to combat climate change, with the plantation of a billion trees among those measures.

He said peace in Afghanistan would help increase connectivity between Pakistan and Central Asia and the wider region. Noting that there is a prospect of peace in Afghanistan after many years, he said Pakistan was playing its part in bringing the Taliban and Afghan government representatives to the table to resolve the decades-old conflict.

Regarding India, Imran said Pakistan was hoping that the elections in the neighbouring country would be over soon and there would be no incentive for Indian politicians to get votes based on anti-Pakistan sentiment. He said his country wants to build a civilised relationship with its eastern neighbour and there was a possibility that if the Kashmir issue was resolved through dialogue then things could improve.

Imran said development targets will be achieved within two years. He invited Chinese businesspersons to visit Pakistan and explore the investment opportunities in various sectors. He said his government was providing incentives to the Chinese investors and also improving ease of doing business in the country.

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